Trajectory Synthesis and Tracking as a Means of Flight Control Decoupling

P.J. Gorder (USA)



United States production of general aviation (GA) aircraft declined from its zenith of over 18,000 aircraft in the mid1970's, to less than 1,000 in 1995. All told, it is estimated that the decline of GA industry resulted in the loss of at least 100,000 jobs nation-wide in the last 25 years. The NASA Aeronautics Advisory Committee Task Force on General Aviation concluded that "without innovation enabled by technological advancement, GA within the United States will fail to respond to opportunities for expanded use and is destined to continue its decline." The Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) program, and the subsequent Small Air Transportation System (SATS) program, were consortia formed specifically to facilitate this innovation and stimulate the recovery of the general aviation industry. The recovery of the GA industry will rely on the opening of new markets for aviation, shifting the perception of general aviation as recreation to general aviation as a travel option. This can be achieved only by providing a product that is safer, easier to fly in all weather conditions, and no more expensive than today's low end general aviation aircraft. Indeed, the associated with using small personally piloted aircraft must approach that of commercial options, when convenience and time are added to the equation. The critical path to this goal is the development of an inexpensive yet reliable advanced flight system, incorporating various levels of automation and control augmentation to simplify the operation of the aircraft. The ease of operation, particularly for infrequent pilots, includes many facets, including interacting with air traffic control, navigation, etc. It has been demonstrated, however, that providing an intuitive, decoupled control system enhances the performance and greatly reduces initial and currency training in low-time pilots. Presented herein is a novel approach to decoupled flight control that is based on trajectory synthesis and tracking. The basic concept is presented and briefly developed followed by some preliminary simulation results. This approach has been shown to be effective and work continues in other application areas as well as piloted aircraft.

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